Trying to follow the map…

What happens when you’re from a working-class become middle-class-family background trying to negotiate higher education and “find” your profession?

Well, if it’s like my case, you can’t figure out your way because you don’t know the information to help you to understand the key that defines the roadmap which gets you to your endpoint.

I have two masters degrees in which I have invested over $75,000 in loans. I have almost a decade of program management and development experience behind me. I am now working in an academic institution in which I’d hoped and I’m still hoping that I can broaden my job description to truly be an integral part of public health curriculum development and implementation. Not just someone who administrates but someone who contributes and creates.

And yet, this job is not my endpoint. I never expected it to be when I took it on in the first place. I hope that it would open up some doors for me, and I hope that it is. But, I’m not sure.

I imagined myself getting a higher degree and I still do. The problem is that I do not know what degree fits my area of interest and if I’m even qualified to get into a program.

I have no research experience in my background, as I was working in the field when I began my Masters in Public Health. I worked full-time to pay the bills. I didn’t have time to take on a research assistantship.

And, I have two complementary but different interests. On one hand, I am interested in understanding health inequalities in trans*, genderqueer, and WSW folks; specifically, in interpersonal violence, substance use, mental health, and risky sexual behavior. I want to use knowledge about these health inequalities to understand how to appropriately develop health promotion and risk reduction programs; how to support trans*, queer, and WSW communities and people.

I want to keep a sociological lens to that public health work. I want to consider how in- and out- group dynamics affect individuals’ participation in health promotion programs. I want to consider the effects of social factors such as homo-, bi-, and trans-phobia, cissexism and sexism on individual and group agency/efficacy. I want to explore individual and group vulnerability and strength.

That is one area of interest.

The other area is about teaching. It is about understanding how we translate our knowledge in the classroom to our students so that they can go out in the field and be successful. I’m interested in pushing the boundaries of flipped classroom, case method, and consultancy-based learning. And, I want to learn how to evaluate the work we’re doing in the classroom to truly understand if what we are doing is working.

I want to be involved with research, but not solely be a researcher.

I want to inform program development, but not necessarily be a program developer.

And, I want to teach.

I have no clue what my final job looks like never mind how I’m supposed to get there. And while I keep talking to people in the field and higher ed, they don’t know either. And so I wonder if my passions are crazy, if I just can’t articulate them well enough, if I’m interested in too many things, or if I’m just a working-class became middle-class professional with two Masters’ degrees, who graduated from all of her programs summa cum laude but never really understood how to read the map and so was never supposed to be in this field in the first place. Maybe I’m supposed to be that baker or that project manager and not an academic. Because as much as I think that’s what I want to be, I can’t figure out how to get there. But I am so afraid of making nothing out of my professional life and self simply because I can’t follow the map.


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